Arts & Culture » Comedy Critic's Choice

James Adomian makes an impression

Actually, he makes many of them. The stand-up's imitative prowess—celebrities to cartoon villains to Gary Busey—is his greatest means of comedy.

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The illustration on the cover of James Adomian's debut stand-up album, 2012's Low Hangin Fruit (Earwolf)—a monocle hovering just above a couple devilish patches of facial hair—is perfectly fitting. A man of many voices, Adomian spends about a quarter of his act imitating the cane-toting, top-hatted rascals of the early 20th century (with an occasional wily prospector woven in). He has a keen ability to strike the right balance between upper-nasal-cavity flamboyance (a la Charles Nelson Reilly at his most Charles Nelson Reilly-ish) and the kind of earnestness with which a community theater troupe might stage King Lear.

Adomian's calling card is his voice work, which he performs all over the podcast universe—including Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang!, where I first became familiar with characters like Jesse Ventura, Sam Elliott, and George W. Bush. He integrates dozens of voices into his stand-up, not only taking jabs at poor schlubs like character actor Paul Giamatti but digging as well into the inexplicable urgency of everything New York City—with plenty of overembellished accents to illustrate. Adomian's at his best when he's recalling the delight he experienced as a gay kid playing center on his high school's football team, or riffing on gay cartoon villains—villains "with a long handshake," as he describes them—and the unflinching everyday drama that characters like Megatron or Skeletor inflict on their minions. This performance is part of Tomorrow Never Knows.

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